Author Archive | Bob Ashby


Review: ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ at Other Voices Theatre

World’s Fairs – those gaudy showcases of civic and national pride, corporate promotion, new technology, consumerism, over-the-top temporary architecture, sideshow entertainment, and an occasional lasting imprint on the cities where they take place – have been a frequent setting for books, plays, and films. Showboat’s characters visit Chicago during its 1893 fair. Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins […]

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Review: ‘Gypsy’ at the Cumberland Theatre

The original full title of the show now playing at the Cumberland Theatre was Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Emphasize that final word. Gypsy Rose Lee was none too particular about the facts of her life in the 1957 memoir on which the show was based; telling a good story easily trumped telling a true story. The […]

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Scott Parkinson, Lilian Oben, and Michael Russotto  in The Crucible. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Review: ‘The Crucible’ at Olney Theatre Center

Fanaticism grows in a society fractured along fault lines of political and religious authority, property, status, gender, generational change, and belief, creating a fertile climate for persecution. The first thing the audience sees on entering Olney Theatre Center’s main stage for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a network of variously angled, sheared off, red boards […]

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Review: ‘Fly By Night’ at 1st Stage

Recipe for a vexing evening of musical theater: combine cuteness, sweetness, quirkiness, clever and funny dialogue, and a sprinkling of amusing and melodic songs. Add a heavy dose of sentimentality. Stir in a sauce of vague mysticism. Top it off with an abrupt, blatantly forced, change of mood near the end of the second act. […]

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Review: ‘Sweeney Todd’ by The Arlington Players

Stephen Sondheim himself felt some uncertainty in categorizing Sweeney Todd, the 1979 show that many regard as the masterpiece of his long and spectacular career. In his annotated book of lyrics, Finishing the Hat, he settled on “dark operetta” and refers to it as “a movie for the stage.” There is an alternative way of […]

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Review: ‘The Front Page’ by Providence Players

There are few perfect things in life, let alone in theater. But Providence Players’ The Front Page comes darn close. Every aspect of the production is first-rate. The newspaper world created for this 1928 screwball comedy by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht – themselves former reporters – is peopled by middle-aged, poorly-paid, working stiffs, ink-and-bourbon-stained […]

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Review: ‘Roz and Ray’ at Theater J

Fierce. No word short of that can fairly describe the characters’ commitment to their consuming passions, and the actors’ commitment to their roles, in Theater J’s harrowing production of Karen Hartman’s Roz and Ray.   Ray Leon (Tom Story), a blue-collar Texan now living in San Diego, is the single father of two hemophiliac sons, […]

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Review: ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ at Maryland Ensemble Theatre

There are potholes in the road not taken. So discover many of the characters in Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, now being presented by the Maryland Ensemble Theater (MET) in Frederick, Maryland. The setup for Gionfriddo’s play – which had a successful off-Broadway run in 2012 and many regional productions since – involves a visit […]

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Review: ‘Death by Design’ at Aldersgate Church Community Theater

“There is nothing whatever beneath my exterior.” So proclaims a character in Death by Design, now playing at the Aldersgate Church Community Theater (ACCT) in Alexandria. How right he is, not only for him but for this theatrical trifle itself. Look elsewhere for subtlety or subtext. But it is an amusing trifle. Playwright Rob Urbinati’s […]

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Review: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Other Voices Theatre

Frederick’s Other Voices Theatre puts a very large cast and a complex technical scheme to excellent use in its production of the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock operetta Jesus Christ Superstar. A revisionist retelling of the biblical passion story, Superstar focuses on its creators’ imagining of the very human emotions of Jesus and his […]

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Review: ‘Fool for Love’ at the Cumberland Theatre

The theme of a man and a woman who can’t live without each other and can’t live with each other is as old as theater. Often enough it has been played for comedy, as in the couples in Noel Coward’s Private Lives or Present Laughter.  But not in Sam Shepard country. In Shepard’s Fool for […]

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avenue q outbound

Review: ‘Avenue Q’ at Workhouse Arts Center

The audience for Workhouse Theater’s production of Avenue Q (music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Mark, book by Jeff Whitty), loved every minute. And what’s not to love? The 2003 Tony Award-winning, Sesame Street-inspired musical about a diverse and diverting set of characters trying to find themselves in a downscale Brooklyn-like neighborhood offers […]

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Sean Besecker and Anne Hunt in Of Mice and Men. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Entertainment Group

Review: ‘Of Mice and Men’ at Maryland Entertainment Group

An apt subtitle for Of Mice and Men, adapted from the 1937 novella by John Steinbeck, might be “the futility of hope.” In the small, corrosively lonely, universe of a California ranch during the Great Depression, any human connection, longstanding or brief, will not endure; any hope, however modest, will evaporate; any dream, however fanciful, […]

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Review: ‘The Audience’ at Little Theatre of Alexandria

Attention Anglophiles: If you loved The Queen, and if you avidly follow The Crown on Netflix, then by all means, join the audience for The Audience at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA). All three were written by Peter Morgan, who has become something of a specialist in portraying the royals. The play does not […]

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